Sexual Orientation Can Change

#sex #BDSM #queerphobia/biphobia

Hey, did you know that sexual orientation can change? Mine did!

I was bisexual for years, throughout adolescence and college and half of grad school. Like many bisexual people, my attractions to different genders weren’t identical or equal: I tended to be more attracted to women, but everyone I’d fallen in love with or had a serious relationship with had been a man, so I wondered if I could ever love a woman at all.

Well, I could and I did. Perhaps because of that experience, perhaps not (probably not, in retrospect), my patterns of attraction started shifting.

I’d always experienced a certain…apathy about men when it comes to sexual attraction, but I figured that was just attributable to demisexuality. The only way I could ever want to fuck a man would be if I sort of made myself do it the first time, and then afterwards I’d usually really want to. Sometimes I even thought about men when I masturbated. But it was always tenuous and fragile thing. When I saw male partners after a long time apart, it would always take me at least a few hours to want them again. They’d expect me to throw myself into their arms at the first greeting, but honestly, in that moment I usually didn’t want to touch them or look at them at all. Eventually I would “get into it” again.

But starting about a year ago, even that started slipping away from me. The idea of having sex with men started to fill me with dread, then revulsion. At first I thought I could have mostly-asexual relationships with them, but then I realized that I couldn’t even really experience crushy-type feelings with them anymore. (My last crush on a guy was probably over a year ago, unless you count Jon Snow.)

How much of this is political and how much of it is “biological”? Truly, I have no idea. Maybe I would feel differently about this if every single relationship I’ve ever had with a man, no matter how casual or how serious, didn’t fall apart in the same tangled mess of unexamined assumptions about gender roles. Somehow, no matter progressive they are, it’s only a matter of time before it’s my job to take care of their feelings, and they’re feeling sad because I’m not interested enough in sex or moving in together or whatever, and they’re trying to take charge of my mental health for me without my consent, and “I just don’t understand why you’d even want to be with me,” and on and on and on. Worse, they keep insisting that they’re not trying to get me to change my desires or behavior, but then they consistently act in ways that seem designed to get me to change my desires or behavior. Seriously, anyone would lose interest after all this.

And maybe it doesn’t matter. Even if these negative experiences somehow caused me to lose all ability to even imagine fucking a man without feeling nauseous, I mean, the nausea is still real.

People really don’t like to hear about all this. Straight people get terrified of being “turned” gay; gays and lesbians are terrified of being “turned” straight; bisexual people hate me for “confirming” the stereotype that bisexuality is “just a phase,” since I guess I ultimately did “pick a side,” didn’t I?

I feel that. But it’s not my job to make sure that the things that happen to me are politically expedient for The Movement. It would be awful if someone decides to use my experience as “proof” that bisexual people are all going to “pick a side” at some point or that maybe we really can turn queer people straight, but even though it would be awful, it wouldn’t be my fault. I can’t singlehandedly stop queerphobia, not even if I make sure that my feelings and experiences always align with what’s most politically advantageous.

It would be convenient if I could somehow convince myself (and others) that I was Really A Lesbian All Along. And I do wonder if I would’ve been, were it not for the social conditioning that caused me to believe that I desperately Need A Man. But again, it doesn’t really matter. For ten years I genuinely felt that I wanted to be with men, romantically and sometimes sexually. Now I don’t.

There are exceptions, though. I sometimes enjoy sex with men in the context of a threesome with another woman. I sometimes enjoy cuddling with men. Sometimes, men who exhibit a certain combination of Dom-ness, sweetness, and great progressive consent-focused politics can really turn me on. But the idea of looking for Doms specifically is horrifying, because very few of them have those other two qualities. I’m not looking for some controlling, hyper-masculine asshole who’s actually deeply insecure on the inside. I’m looking for someone who knows how to make me feel good and has the confidence to make it happen. I’m looking for someone who knows how to fuck without me having to patiently explain every little detail. I’m looking for someone who actually knows what he wants and gets it rather than prefacing every single sexual encounter with “But what do YOU like?” (Please do not assume my preferences are universal. I’m a kinky sub, and even then not all kinky subs like what I like.)

But those men are very rare, and even then I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to have a relationship with one.

I don’t really have much of a label nowadays; I tend to use “gay,” “queer,” or “homoflexible” depending on the context. I know I’m not comfortable claiming the word “lesbian,” since most of the interactions I’ve had with lesbians about this suggest that they want nothing to do with me unless I either 1) agree to never ever fuck or date a man again, or 2) can qualify for their bullshit and often transphobic-in-context “Gold Star” rule. Well, I can’t, so you can keep your label, I shan’t sully it with my ambiguous sexuality.

(#NotAllLesbians, surely, but you can’t deny that as a community, they haven’t been very supportive or welcoming to women who can’t always define their sexuality.)

Where does all this leave me? Confused and lonely, mostly. I feel powerless to find solidarity among others who have had similar experiences, even though “used to date/fuck men and no longer interested in dating/fucking men” seems to describe many queer women. But there’s no label for it, so I don’t know how to find them.

Although some of them still identify as bi, in practice, I don’t find that I have much to say in bi spaces. Almost every bi woman I know is either in a serious relationship with a man, or is looking for a serious relationship with a man. Therefore, most bi women I encounter are often talking about dating and fucking men. Of course, that’s 100% their right: they’re still just as queer, no matter what some bullshit xoJane article says, and they don’t owe anyone any proof of that. But it does mean I don’t feel that I have much in common with them, and right now I really need spaces where men are decentered. I just really need to not hear about fucking men for a while. (Both in the adjective sense, and in the verb sense.)

I love blogs like Autostraddle for this reason, but in terms of finding community and people to talk to, that’s a lot harder. I don’t think most of my friends (let alone my partners) really understand what’s going on with me, and I don’t know how to explain it any better than I’ve already done.

To be fair, I don’t really understand what’s going on with me, either.

I will delete any comments that tell me that I’m wrong about my identity, or otherwise try to invalidate my personal experience.

Yes, that includes telling me I’m “actually bisexual.”

Talking About Talking About Being Gay

I’ve started to worry that I talk about being gay too much. Like there’s something unseemly about it, like it’s some embarrassing relic from an older time–a time I didn’t even live through–when one had to talk about such things to make them visible. A time when legalized same-sex marriage was an idea so fantastical as to be laughable, not a plain reality in all 50 states.

All around me I see queer people–gay men, lesbians, bi and pan folks–who do not talk about queerness and being queer all the time. If they think about it all the time, they have the propriety not to say so. Often, I don’t even realize that people I know fairly well are queer until I’ve known them for ages, not because they aren’t out in the ways that matter to them, but because they don’t seem to feel the need to talk about it all the time like I do.

I feel extremely silly and immature about the fact that I constantly talk about being gay. It’d be easy to write off my embarrassment about this as internalized homophobia, but it’s also pretty obvious that other queer people don’t do it so much. I fear their judgment much more than I fear the judgment of straight people. I fear that they think I’m passing through some pathetic stage they’re long done with, a stage in which you have to talk about something all the time because it’s new to you.

Of course, it both is and isn’t new. I was bisexual for ten years. But for the first five of them, I didn’t tell a single person. I wrote it in my diary exactly once. Even after I finally started coming out, it took years before I met other queer people, so there was really nothing to say, and nobody to say it to. If it’s true that there’s some queer developmental stage that I haven’t finished going through yet, can you really blame me? Blame it on Ohio.

And when I realized I was no longer bisexual, that was new, too. People are even less aware of the fact that orientation is fluid than of the fact that bisexual people are real. I felt that I needed to talk about it. I needed people to know I wasn’t bisexual anymore. I needed them to understand what that meant. needed to understand what that meant. (I still don’t.)

But I also realize that I’m probably mistaken to assume that the only reason other queer people don’t talk so much about being queer is because it’s boring old news to them and they don’t think about it anymore. Maybe they’re not comfortable talking about it, but wish they could. Maybe they’re as envious of me as I am of them.

Sometimes I think–I hope–that it’s a good thing that I talk about it so much, because maybe I’m helping straight people learn not to assume that everyone is straight and not to always see everything through that lens. Maybe some of the stuff I talk about is even interesting to them–how I’ve internalized some stereotypically male ways of relating to women (because that’s the only sort of attraction to women that I’ve ever really been exposed to), how weird I feel seeing sexualized images of women that are nevertheless clearly meant for men, how it’s quite possible to have parents who are both homophobic and secular, so please stop blaming homophobia on religion, thank you very much.

But most of the time I can’t shake the feeling that I’m doing something childish. I’m told that worrying about what to label yourself is somehow passe, because “labels are for soup cans.” I’m told that we’re equal now. I’m told that “it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bi, neither.”

If it really didn’t matter, I wouldn’t feel so weird and wrong. So as long as that lasts, I’ll be talking about it, embarrassing as it is.

Why do straight people think we want to turn them gay?

#homophobia #violence #rape

In general, I think that Freudian defense mechanisms (you know, projection, repression, reaction formation, all those) are the last resort of the entirely unimaginative and unempathic who would nevertheless like to take a shot at explaining human behavior. It’s like the psychology version of the Internet Skeptic shouting out the names of logical fallacies, hoping that something sticks, as his opponent argues him up against the wall.

But if I were to venture and call something a case of projection, it would be the persistence of straight people in claiming that gay people want to turn them gay.

That belief, which can only gain any sort of urgency when one also believes that being gay is awful and no decent person would want to do that to someone else, has been used to justify all sorts of discrimination and prejudice. It was used to justify firing gay teachers, who would presumably use their positions to turn schoolchildren gay. It was used to justify banning same-sex couples from adopting children, because they would obviously raise their children gay. It fuels fears of allowing gay men into traditionally masculine spaces, such as professional sports and the military.

The persistent fear of rape by gay men fuels that too, even though men who rape other men are not necessarily gay and are usually doing it as “punishment” or as part of a display of social power. The implication there is also that being raped by a man automatically makes the victim gay, which is a gruesome misunderstanding of sexual orientation and of rape. The only way to be a gay man is to consider yourself one, and to want sex/romance primarily with other men. Whereas if you are raped, that is not something you wanted or asked for in any way.

If it weren’t so hateful and horrible, I would laugh. Because let me put it to you straight (no pun intended):

Who used medical and psychological “expertise” to define heterosexuality as normal and healthy, and queerness as a mental disorder to be cured?

Who demands that bisexual people just calmly settle down with someone of the “opposite” gender since they have that “option”?

Who uses religious scripture to claim that queer people should pray to be “saved” from their sin, and that they should do their duty by marrying someone of the “opposite” gender and producing children?

Who believes that “corrective rape” can turn a queer person straight–and does it?

Who practices scientifically invalidated, psychologically dangerous “therapy” intended to “convert” queer people into heterosexuality?

Who forces their children to attend such “therapy,” often on the threat of disownment?

Who consistently erases the existence of other sexual orientations through language and media, refusing to display same-sex couples on television, preventing gamers from romancing a same-sex character in a video game, asking women if they have a boyfriend and men if they have a girlfriend?

Who enacts policies banning queer people from telling others of their sexual orientation or displaying it in any way, while straight people get to discuss who they fuck and who they love as much as they want?

Who reacts hatefully, even violently, when a same-sex couple so much as holds hands or shares a quick kiss in public, while straight couples get to publicly make out  and grope each other without so much as a disgusted comment?

Who openly claims that the world would be better without us? Who, in the most extreme cases, commits murder to try and make it so?

We’re not trying to make you gay.

You’re trying to make us straight.

That’s projection. That’s assuming that because you’re so obsessed with changing our sexuality, we must be equally obsessed with changing yours.

To be fair, I (and probably many other people) think the world would be a slightly nicer place if there were more queer people in it. That would probably mean more people I can be comfortably myself with, more spaces free of homophobia, more writers and musicians and artists and directors and game developers to make art and media that includes us, more friends who share some of my experiences, more people to go out with, more people to vote against your bullshit laws.

But I don’t want to turn people queer.

I don’t care what the fuck your sexual orientation is. I care how you treat us.